It can be very difficult to know how to choose a counsellor from the wide range available. It can also be difficult to know what type of counselling to use. You may read about Psychodynamic, Person-Centered, CBT, Solution-Focused, Gestalt and many others. You can read more about my qualifications here. So which is the most effective? Research has demonstrated time and again, that the type of counselling approach you choose is not the most important factor. The number one factor contributing to effectiveness in counselling is the relationship with your counsellor. I want to explore some aspects of my practice.
Many of the problems that people come to counselling for have a strong relational aspect. We may be locked into conflict with our boss or spouse, we may find it hard to trust people, we may find relationships difficult. We cannot escape relationships of one kind or other. As difficult as they may be, relationships also provide us with the greatest sense of satisfaction in life, when we can be open to others; knowing and being known, loving and being loved.
In my experience, problems in relationship are also solved in relationship. When we expose the hidden parts of ourselves to another, and experience ourselves understood and accepted, then we can begin to understand and accept ourselves. The parts of ourselves which were hidden, slowly make their way into the light, to find their unique expression. That is why the therapeutic relationship, the connection you have with your counsellor, is so important. I will help you to become aware of the experiences and feelings you have in therapy, so that you can find new ways of being with other people.
If we don’t set any goals, how will we know when we have arrived?
As you begin counselling, I will help you to set goals for yourself to gain the greatest benefit for your efforts. Engaging in counselling is making an investment in yourself. Setting goals from the outset ensures that you gain a return on your investment. Asking yourself what you want out of counselling is a crucial question. The agreed goals set the direction and focus of our work together. Of course, the goals may change during the course of therapy, which is often the case.
Working with emotions is the bread and butter of the counselling process. This does not mean that you will be asked to ‘spill your guts’ leaving you to pick yourself up from a pool on the floor! Quite the contrary. A starting point for me is to work safely and steadily at a pace you are comfortable with. You may find yourself cut off from emotions and feeling quite stuck. Or the opposite, with your emotions taking over, making you feel out of control. Either way, healing and change occurs when these patterns are explored.
Many aspects of our personality and character stem from unconscious processes established from childhood. As children we find strategies for staying safe, or avoiding conflict, or maintaining close bonds of love and affection. These help us to survive and get through some tough times. Sometimes these unconscious (out of awareness) strategies can cause problems as we bring them into adulthood. They become the lens through which we see the world, however unhelpful or untrue. Thankfully, with some help, we can identify these unhelpful patterns and work towards exploring alternative ways to view and interact with the world around us.
In the same way that you are important and unique, so is the story of your life so far. No matter how much of a struggle, or how traumatic, your past has helped shape you to be the person you are today. Your story is worth telling and surprising change can happen in the process. When you revisit past events by talking about them, you honour your past and may find new meaning. Past events cannot be changed, but how they live inside of us, how we respond to them can radically change. As you tell your story of whatever you have endured, you may notice many of the strengths, skills and resources you have drawn upon to make it this far.
Religious traditions recognise the power behind telling stories: Moses dealing with the wandering tribes, Jesus teaching using the art of stories, and Buddha attaining Enlightenment under the bodhi tree. Stories connect with our sense of meaning – which is about as close as we can get the the heart of Life. What is your story?